With our archives now 3,500+ articles deep, we’ve decided to republish a classic piece each Sunday to help our newer readers discover some of the best, evergreen gems from the past. This article was originally published in December 2019.
When it comes to New Year’s goals and resolutions, not all are created equal. Below we suggest 16 that offer a whole lot of ROI. Some take only a few minutes; others represent simple changes; all will positively transform your life and help you become a better man.
While it’s very doable to do all 16 this year, if you’re daunted, just pick a few to concentrate on. Heck, just commit to accomplishing one; if you adopt a single new practice each year, in a decade your life will be ten positive habits richer.
1. Get a Real Alarm Clock
The first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night serve as the bookends of your day, setting a limit on what they’ll be able to “hold,” and sending a potent signal to yourself as to what you think is most important. If the first and final thing you do every day is look at your phone, you’re creating a shallow, distracted foundation for what lies in between. So keep your phone out of your room at night, use a regular “old school” alarm clock to wake up in the morning, and don’t touch your phone when you rise until after you’ve done something (prayer, meditation, push-ups) that represents the man you’re going to be that day.
2. Read One Book Every Week
The average book takes about five to seven hours to read. That means if you read just one hour a day or less, you can read one book every single week of the year. Everyone’s got an hour a day to repurpose for reading: cut out one hour of Netflix at night; read a half hour at lunch and a half hour in the evening; read during your subway commute; read in the small snatches of spare moments that arise throughout your day. (You can find our best tips for reading more in general here.) Can you imagine how much better of a man you’ll be at the end of the year when you’ve read 52 books?
3. Drink Nothing But Water
What a colossal waste of calories caloric beverages are. They simply don’t taste that great (especially if we’re talking about soda), and have little to no nutritional value. If you want a treat, at least consume something you can chew! Drinking nothing but water is the very easiest way to lose weight; people can often drop significant poundage and improve their all-around health profile just by making this move. You could tackle this goal while still drinking diet soda and making occasional allowances for alcohol, but you’d be better off cutting out those too in favor of pure H2O.
4. Start a Strength Training Program
No matter if you’re currently sedentary, or do cardio, and nothing but cardio, you could benefit from adding resistance training to your life. Strength training improves your overall health, helps you lose weight, boosts your testosterone, and makes you feel more virile in general. Not sure where to start? Begin with a simple novice linear progression program or sign up for online coaching with a program like Barbell Logic (which is what I personally use and have had major success with).
5. Call Your Mom Once a Week
You know she’s dying to hear from you.
6. Give at Least One Compliment Every Day
People want to be noticed and needed; they crave affirmation and recognition almost as keenly as food and water. And you can fill this human need in less time than it takes to make Cup O’ Noodles. Train yourself to be more observant of how others excel in ways big and small, and call out these accomplishments in behavior, performance, talent, style, and character. Don’t forget to regularly compliment your own family too — who we ironically are the most likely to take for granted!
7. Host a Dinner Party Once a Quarter
According to the authors of Brunch Is Hell, dinner parties can serve as the very cornerstone of a healthy modern society. Why? Because they promote life-giving relationships and civil conversation. Throwing a dinner party offers numerous benefits to the individual host as well, including offering the chance to practice your cooking and social skills, adding the tang of anticipation to your life, and simply motivating you to finally clean up your house! So aim to throw one dinner party ever quarter this year; it’s both easier and more edifying than you think.
8. Take a Short Walk Every Day
There’s a reason philosophers from Aristotle to Nietzsche were committed walkers: taking a stroll clears the mind, helps you solve problems, and generates insights. According to explorer Erling Kagge, walking also slows down time and makes your life feel more memorable. And of course moving your body is good for your health. So take a short saunter every day, in every kind of weather.
Journaling may not be for everyone (it’s a habit I’ve dropped in my own life), but many folks do find it an effective way to cognitively and emotionally process all the stuff they’re going through. Writing requires you to think logically and linearly, which makes it particularly helpful for putting things like depression and anger into perspective. Journal in a way that works for you: Write about what happened that day; write about what you’re grateful for. Write spontaneously; write based off predetermined prompts (we’ve got two sets of these available here and here). Write a paragraph; write a single sentence.
10. Plan Your Weekends
We often think of planning only in terms of one’s workaday life (the scheduling of which can indeed be beneficial), whereas we feel that leisure time should be wholly spontaneous. But everyone’s life experience shows that good times typically don’t just happen; when left to chance, we end up surrendering our free time to inertia and don’t end up doing much at all. So take a page from Ernest Hemingway and intentionally plan out your weekends, always having an idea of a few fun things you’d like to do as you head into them. (If you’re married, we highly recommend doing this planning during your weekly marriage meeting.) You’ll have an easier time facing Monday, when you truly made the most of your Saturday/Sunday.
11. Turn Off Notifications on Your Phone
If you’re sick of being distracted by your phone, but haven’t yet turned off its notifications, then you haven’t begun to fight. As Indistractable author Nir Eyal told me in our podcast interview: “Two-thirds of people with a smartphone never change their notification settings. That’s ridiculous. Can we really complain about technology addicting us if we haven’t taken 10 minutes to change the notifications settings?”
12. Fast for 24 Hours Once a Month
Fasting does great things for one’s health, including normalizing insulin levels, promoting the secretion of human growth hormone, and spurring cell regeneration. It’s also a powerful way to train the soul, so that the spirit becomes stronger than the flesh. Research shows that fasting even once a month produces the aforementioned physical benefits, and anecdotal evidence suggests that a monthly fast is sufficient to incur robust spiritual benefits as well.
13. Exercise and/or Commute One Day a Week Without Music/Podcasts
It’s only in silence and solitude that we hear life’s most important “sounds” — our internal voice, creative inspiration, promptings towards a calling, solutions to dilemmas, things we need to do for or say to others. Yet we are usually so surrounded by noise that these critical messages never get through. To home in on these signals, carve out some weekly quiet time by exercising or commuting without music, podcasts, or any other human-created static.
14. Floss. For Real This Time.
Stave off gum disease. Make your dentist proud. Here’s how to finally make flossing a habit.
15. Start a New Hobby
In seeking to get control of our lives, we often try to cut out device-born distractions. This is good, but as digital minimalist Cal Newport points out, if you want to avoid being pulled back by their siren song, you can’t just empty your life of time-wasters — you have to fill it with worthy pursuits. That’s where hobbies come in; find an activity that’s just as compelling, and way more satisfying, than twiddling on your phone. Not sure which hobby to try your hand at? We have a list of 75 of them here.
16. Attend Church Each Week
Even if your beliefs are uncertain and your faith isn’t firm, attending a religious service each week can greatly improve your life and relationships in numerous ways; even if you’re not sure you believe in an immortal soul, church attendance can be good for it. It offers one of the easiest ways to make friends, an opportunity for reflection, and a discipline-building ritual. It improves mental and physical health and furnishes opportunities to do service. At the very least, it provides an all-too-rare chance to engage in some group singing.